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Thermal Compound

Definition - What does Thermal Compound mean?

Thermal compound is a very high-heat conductive adhesive used in high-performance electronic equipment in order to improve heat conduction. The thermal compound helps in filling microscopic gaps, especially on heat sinks, which trap air in them, thus increasing the heat conduction. By helping to provide a reliable and long-lasting interface through efficient heat management, the thermal compound also ensures better and longer performance of an electronic equipment.

Thermal compound is also known a variety of terms, including thermal paste, thermal grease, thermal gel, thermal interface material, heat sink paste, heat paste and heat sink compound.

Techopedia explains Thermal Compound

Thermal compound helps in managing the overheating of electronic devices, especially the heat sinks used in personal computers and laptops.

Thermal compound can be classified into two types: nonconductive and conductive. Examples of the former include ceramic and silicone-based ones such as zinc thermal compounds. Examples of the latter include metallic-based ones such as copper, aluminum and silver thermal compounds. Conductive thermal compounds provide the best performance because of the presence of metallic particles, which offer high conductivity as well as electrical conductivity. Ceramic and silicone-based thermal compounds do not conduct electricity and work in most conditions where metallic thermal compounds cannot be used.

Excess of thermal compound can hinder the cooling-down process for a device.

The thermal compound helps provide better heat-conducting interface for electrical equipment. Good thermal compounds offer low bond line, low thermal resistance and high thermal conductivity, along with long and reliable performance. Again, they ensure low bond line and eliminate air, which is a bad conductor from the interface. A thermal compound should be able to provide the much needed mechanical strength between two surfaces for heat conduction, whether the surfaces are metallic or non-metallic.

The thermal compound is mostly used between the microprocessor and a heat sink in personal computers and laptops. It is also used in drawing heat away from components such as semiconductors, integrated circuits, transistors and amplifiers.

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